Commonly Asked Questions About GSPs


via German Shorthaired Pointer Club of America

How large is a GSP?  How much do they weigh? 

Males can get be anywhere from 21”-27” and weight from 55-75 lbs, females 20-25” and 40-65 lbs.  However, it is not the actual size that is important, GSPs are a very energetic breed, they are actually stronger per pound than most any breed.  They are very lean and muscular and all of their body weight is focused on muscle and energy.

How long do they live?

They generally live healthy lives and live to around 13 years.  They can live longer, but in general they are healthy until around age 13

What do they eat and about how much?

Because of their high energy level, they should be fed a high quality food, containing a good balance of protein and fat.  Most, normally active GSPs will require a higher level of fat and protein than many other breeds, throughout their lives.  Adults will eat from 2-5 cups of food a day, depending on the individual dogs metabolism and how much activity they are getting.  A dog hunting and training hard in cold weather will require substantially more than one simply going on walks and sleeping on the couch.  A GSP that lives outdoors in a cold climate will need a considerable increase in food during the winter.  They do not carry a layer of fat like some breeds, therefore, they lose a lot of body heat even when sleeping. 

Where should they live/sleep?

A GSP that gets a lot of exercise and interaction with family makes an excellent housedog, but he must have a secure area to run and play or be taken on very regular romps where they can let off some steam.  A GSP that has been cooped up and not allowed to play rambunctiously may be too active to enjoy in the house.  Because of their curious nature and high activity level, it is best if young dogs sleep in a confined, secure place, such as a crate.  This assures that the dog does not “accidentally” get into trouble during the night when he wakes up and is unsupervised.  Older, mature dogs that have proven themselves trustworthy housedogs, can be allowed to sleep loose, preferably in their owners room. 

GSPs can be outside dogs, but they can not be ignored.  An ignored GSP will become bored easily.  The high intellect and curious nature of the breed will result in some very undesirable behaviors.  Barking, digging and general destruction can result.  If a GSP is going to be an outside dog, they need to be owned by an “outside” person.

What are the grooming needs of a GSP and how often should they be done?

Maintenance of the GSP is minimal compared to many other breeds, but there are still some areas that require attention.  The main area of concern is the ear.  The large floppy ears do not allow for good airflow and they can be prone to yeast infections in the ear canal.  It is imperative that you have your vet demonstrate proper ear maintenance to you.  Regular cleaning with mild solution, designed for ears, will keep this area under control. 

Good dental health is also a must.  Teach the dog early to enjoy having his teeth brushed with a toothbrush and toothpaste designed for dogs.  Also, encourage him to chew on toys that are designed to clean teeth and stimulate gums.

Toenails should be kept short.  It is best to do them once a week and remove only a small portion from the ends.  Long nails can be hazardous when the dog is running in the field, getting caught on things and possibly tearing it off.  Also, if they are long, the dog will be walking on the nails, as opposed to walking on pads of the feet as they are suppose to, resulting in sore, splayed feet.

Shedding……YES, dark hair to get on the light stuff and white hairs to get on the dark stuff!!  There are some things that can be done to help minimize this.  Regular baths with a good quality shampoo that is mild on the skin, as well as regular grooming with a rubber grooming glove will keep the skin stimulated and the hair healthy, plus remove the dead hairs before they fall off on the furniture.  Good quality, balanced food with essential fatty acids in it, will help to keep the coat healthy and reduce shedding.  A healthy, parasite free, clean GSP will shed the least possible.  Outdoor dogs will develop a downy undercoat which will shed out in the spring, this can be encouraged to all come out at once by well timed baths and brushing.

Some GSPs can have droopy eyelids.  If this is the case, attention should be paid to this when running the dog in areas of tall grass and weeds.  Grass and weed seeds can be very painful if they get stuck under the eyelids.  When hunting with such a dog, it is recommended that you carry saline solution to flush out the eyes periodically during the day.

How much exercise do they need; how frequently?

Canines are most secure and content with regular daily routines.  A GSP’s daily routine definitely must include some form of exercise preferably morning and evening.  The ideal would be time to run and play in a secure fenced area; at least a half hour AM and PM.  If you do not have the facility for that a brisk morning and evening walk or jog are essential.  City dwellers will have to get more creative with providing their high energy healthy pet a daily opportunity to blow off steam and stay in condition, maybe a treadmill type dog jogger, or a local basketball court where a ball or frisbee can be safely chased.

What toys and supplies do I need to buy?

Different dogs like different types of toys.  Most GSPs like to retrieve and enjoy toys that they can fetch.  It is a good idea to teach your dog early to chew on the proper toys that will result in good dental health.   Hard nylon chew toys or sterilized bones are good for helping reduce the tarter on their teeth.  Not all dogs like to chew on these types of things and they must be encouraged to do so.  Some dog treats such as rawhide bones and rope toys should be given to the dog only with supervision.  These types of toys can be dangerous if the dog eats them rather than just chewing them.  It is very individual, some dogs savor them and simply enjoy chewing, others simply destroy them and swallow large pieces, this is an individual decision.

A crate is a must.  It should be large enough for the dog to stretch out and stand up and turn around but not so large that it does not provide the secure “den” feeling that dogs enjoy.  There are various types, wire and plastic.  Different situations call for different crates.  Wire affords good circulation, but is not as secure feeling to the dog as a plastic crate.  Plastic crates are required by the airlines.

Collars with tags marked clearly with the address and contact numbers should be worn by dogs when they are outside.  Even safer is a microchip implanted under the skin registered with the AKC’s Companion Animal Recovery program.  Most veterinarians can provide this service.  Be careful of loose fitting collars and dangling tags when the dog is confined to his crate, there is the possibility of it becoming tangled in the crate and causing harm to the dog.  A “choke style” collar is very dangerous when out in the field hunting.  Only snug fitting flat collars with nothing dangling or protruding to catch on fences or brush should be used n the field.  Use discretion on these items.

Are they good with children?

The breed enjoys a reputation of being excellent with children.  This is due to their high level of intelligence and inbred desire to function with and for people.  They seem to understand that infants and very young ones need care and protection, and tend to be tolerant of little ones’ play.  This is not to say that an exuberant pup will not knock a toddler down in play or accidentally bite to grab a toy.  When visiting a new litter, you may find the dam aggressive and protective of her brood, and should respect that for what it is.  You also may encounter a GSP alarmed at the antics of small children, which should be explainable by asking if the dog has ever been exposed to youngsters.  Aggression toward or fear of people of any size or age is not typical GSP temperament and should be avoided in any dog you may take into your home.

Are they easy to train?

Yes, very, IF you know what you are doing.  The GSP is very eager to please and will work hard for positive reinforcement.  They are not generally stubborn or hard-headed.  They pick up new exercises very quickly.  Due to their high intelligence level, the biggest challenge is to keep them focused, and not let them get away with “inventing” variations to the exercise being taught.  Because of their extreme sensitivity to people, the trainer must always be watchful of their own body language and reactions to issues that come up during a training exercise.  As a general rule, a calm demeanor providing quick and clear reward for desired behavior, while ignoring or if necessary simple verbal correction of undesired behavior will net you an enthusiastic and talented working partner.

Should I crate train my GSP?

ABSOLUTELY!!  The crate was designed with the GSP in mind!!  If introduced properly and in a positive manner, it becomes a safe haven and a secure “den” for the dog.  This way the dog has a place to go when things get too hectic and he needs a break.  When he has to travel, his “home” can come with him and he is not unsettled by the situation.  He is protected from himself, when there is no one to supervise him.  It is very unfair to leave an unsupervised GSP alone in the house and expect him to be good!!  When you come home and he has done something wrong, nobody is happy!!  When he is safely in his crate, when you come home, you know that you can enjoy your dog and he can enjoy you, without the trauma of a big unexpected mess.  And last, but certainly not least, if your dog is ever ill and is required to stay in a crate, either at home or at the vet, it will help his recovery if he is comfortable resting in his “den”, rather than feeling like he is trapped in a cage he is not use to.

Is it fair to the dog if I don’t plan to hunt?

GSPs are most commonly thought of as prized hunting companions, but what the avid hunters who treasure them know is this is not just because they have fantastic noses, tremendous endurance,  great heart and strong field instincts. This breed was developed with versatility in mind, and the German breeding programs succeeded admirably at what they set out to do.  They are also bred for tracking, for companionship, for watching over their territory and ridding it of vermin, for working in rough terrain both on land and in water.  What is not fair to this breed is to ignore them and sentence them to a sedentary life with limited human companionship.   If you can find activities in your life which afford the dog the opportunity to work with and for you, you will have a happy and well-adjusted animal no matter what that activity may be.  The temperament, physical and intelligence qualities youread about in this piece allow the GSP to excel at just about any activity you are interested in which can include a dog.

How do I find a responsible breeder and what health issues should I ask about?

The GSPCI provides Breeder Referral contacts elsewhere on this website who can furnish lists of breeders in your area and guidance through your search for a healthy dog with the characteristics you are looking for.  The GSP is relatively free of genetic problems when compared to most other AKC breeds, but there are many health clearances which breeders can provide.  At a minimum breeding stock should be certified against hip dysplasia by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA).  GSPs rank 107th in hip dysplasia with only 5.3% of the Xrays submitted classified as dysplastic.  This data is skewed by the probability that most bad Xrays are never submitted to the OFA, which makes the certification all that much more important.   Breeders are also starting to screen elbow joints with few problems surfacing in GSPs (98.2% checking clear).   Many breeders have eyes cleared through the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF); have thyroid levels tested; test for Von Willenbrand’s Disease (VWD) a blood clotting disorder; and have heart function also cleared through the OFA.

Ask breeders questions about the health not only of the sire and dam, but of their siblings and parents if known.  How long did they live?  What kind of surgeries have they had?